Privacy for Sex Workers.

The guy in charge of Firefox just called out Google, saying, stop using their search.  Why would he do that? Because Google’s CEO said:

If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

But can’t we just trust in “I have nothing to hide?”.  NO.  Privacy is way more than what some company collects about you.  Privacy is The right of an individual to choose what personal information is given to who and when. So, think about your privacy, and what you want it to be, then SHARE that information with people.  Let people know what your privacy level is.  Do you want your partner to dish about your latest happenings to their friends?  Do you trust person X to know about your Sex Work, but don’t want them to tell anyone else?  The clearer and more open you can be about your privacy, the more it can be respected.  But back to this whole Google privacy issue:

So the Firefox guy says use Bing, which is Microsofts search.  I actually have some different thoughts. If you must have google search, there are ways to make it more private.  But there are search engines dedicated to Privacy, like ixquick.  Also, sites like Zuula and Hakia have reasonable privacy policies. I think I like Hakia‘s front page better, but from a privacy perspective ixquick is definitely the queen.

But what about Google’s other services?

I’d recommend Riseup or Yahoo Mail if you need free email.  Otherwise for some money try something like hosted Zimbra, I use a company in the UK. (I like the idea of my email being outside of the US.  Then the govt’s have to beg each other for access, and for what I do, I can’t see them caring enough).

Instead of Google Docs, try Zoho.  Instead of Google Analytics (which is on the short list to being banned in Germany), try Yahoo Analytics.

I sadly have no alternative to Google Maps  (There is Yahoo Maps, and Microsoft Maps, but they don’t really compare).

But, EVERY web company today (yes including Facebook, twitter, etc) all collect everything they can about you, to use for advertising, etc.  Google is by no means the only one.  However, Google’s privacy policy is HORRID.  Most of the others at least attempt to have one, and think about privacy.

So what can you do?

For every Privacy tool you use, there is a trade-off. There are things like TOR for the uber-private (and lots of tools to help integrate it into your browser experience easier). But for those of us that don’t need or want something quite so heavey handed, you can try some of these tools which I blatantly steal from Jah-Wren Ryel:

  • Adblock Plus [mozilla.org] – general catch-all to block things like doubleclick and the million other trackers
  • CookieSafe Lite [mozilla.org] – for fine-grained control of what sites can set cookiesNoScript [mozilla.org] – for fine-grained control of what sites can use javascript and flash
  • Redirect Cleaner [mozilla.org] – for removing those “bounce links” that a lot of sites use to track you when you follow a URL off their site, with the cleaner you go directly to the destination URL
  • RefControl [mozilla.org] – for clearing out or rewriting the referrer URL – prevents sites from knowing where you came from when you clicked a URL to their site, sometimes helpful in accessing poorly ‘restricted’ content
  • Targetted Advertising Cookie Opt-Out [mozilla.org] – sets special cookies that sites may choose to obey to say “don’t profile me” since these TACOs are not unique-per-user, I figure it can’t hurt although it probably doesn’t do anything
  • User Agent Switcher [mozilla.org] – Lets your browser identify itself as a different browser – this is very important
  • Ghostery [mozilla.org] – Informational Only – tells you what tracking sites may be tracking you on any given page (does not block them, and you get false alarms on sites where NoScript blocks javascript, but it is still good for situational awareness)
  • Better Privacy [mozilla.org] – Blocks new stealth “super cookies” in Flash and DOM Storage Objects. VERY IMPORTANT.

One more thing before I wrap up about privacy, what about this Do I need a second pre-paid phone to do sex work?

NO, but you probably want one anyway.  It won’t do anything to hide you from the police.  If you want to hide from the police, you need to do a lot of things differently.  If it’s just around Sex Work, the cops almost certainly don’t care about your legal identity until after they bust you.  But, it’s great way to keep stalkers and others from tracking down your legal identity.

Privacy is WAY more than just keeping your browsing information from Google, but it was a great excuse for me to write about the larger issues of privacy.  I encourage you to think about what you want known about you, both online and off, and then share your boundaries or your own personal Privacy Policy with others, so that there is a greater chance of it being respected. I certainly don’t know all the answers.  Do you have great tips on privacy?

5 Responses

  1. “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place,” from the Google CEO. Horrifying.

    Your info is awesome, & so timely: I’ve been warning family about facebook (have a niece who likes to play every game/quiz/photo-sharing app). Now rethinking my fondness for google apps. Thanks for posting this – going to read more at the Jah-Wren Ryel link now…

  2. Google has NEVER been about privacy! If you want privacy — no web apps, no desktop anything, no profiles, nothing on the web AT ALL. (Surf with something like TOR and throwaway email addresses — for starters.)

    Never believe anyone’s Terms of Agreement. Not only do they change, but almost all contain lines about turning over information to authorities with little hesitation.

    XX
    Amanda

  3. @Juliana: Agreed! Facebook is just in the middle of redoing their privacy settings as well, this is a new one:

    Facebook will automatically index all your info on Google(and other search engines), which allows everyone to view it. To change this option, go to Settings –> Privacy Settings –> Search –> then UN-CLICK the box that says ‘Allow indexing’. Facebook kept this one quiet.

    @Amanda: Indeed! I’ve never loved their lack of privacy and ‘do no evil’ approach. As for your comment about if you want privacy, I would say it depends on your level of privacy, and what information you are trying to hide, but I agree TOR is good stuff, and web applications like Facebook, Twitter, etc are not a good place to assume even rudimentary privacy is happening.

    As for the turning information over to authorities, with RARE exception every company and person does this. What you tell your sister or mother could very well make it to the police/authorities, if they really wanted to know. But I definitely agree that privacy policies are just that, policies, and definitely change regularly! Just look at Facebook, and their very recent, very public changes!

  4. Tara,

    True, it all depends on the level of privacy you want. And I would never couch it as “something to hide” rather, something you don’t want the world accessing. Generally though, if you don’t want the world accessing something, don’t put it online. Period.

    XX

  5. [...] Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers so there were some related posts building up to that. Privacy for Sex Workers – About web browsing & using the internet with some privacy features. It’s a very useful [...]

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